What does Cameron think about the death penalty?

Parliament could soon debate capital punishment but what does the PM think?

Parliament hasn't voted on the death penalty since 1994 but that could be about to change with the launch of the government's e-petitions site. The site promises that any petition that receives at least 100,000 signatures will be "eligible for debate in the House of Commons".

Guido Fawkes has submitted a petition to reinstate the death penalty for "the murder of children and police officers when killed in the line of duty." So far, he's won the public support of three Conservative MPs - Philip Davies, Priti Patel and Andrew Turner. Davies said: "It's something where once again the public are a long way ahead of the politicians. I'd go further and restore it for all murderers."

With this in mind, I thought it was worth investigating what David Cameron has had to say on the subject. The PM is opposed to capital punishment but does not regard it as an "unacceptable" view for Conservative MPs to hold. He told Dylan Jones, the author of Cameron on Cameron:

[I]f someone murdered one of my children then emotionally, obviously I would want to kill them. How could you not? But there have been too many cases of things going wrong, of the wrong people being executed, of evidence coming to light after the execution, and sometimes there is just too much of an element of doubt. And I just don't honestly think that in a civilised society like ours that you can have the death penalty any more.

If, like me, you regard capital punishment as state murder, you should relish the prospect of a Parliamentary debate on the subject - the best arguments are on our side. The death penalty is not a deterrent (the US murder rate has risen, not fallen, since the penalty was restored in 1976), it can lead to the death of innocents, and it has a brutalising effect on society. As George Bernard Shaw put it: "It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind."

The last time Parliament voted on the subject the death penalty was rejected by 403 votes to 159. A separate attempt to restore the penalty for the murder of a police officer was rejected by 383 votes to 186. The public, by contrast, continue to support capital punishment, although in diminishing numbers. A YouGov poll in September 2010 found that 51 per cent supported the death penalty for murder, with 37 per cent opposed.

So long as Britain remains a member of the European Union there is little prospect of the return of capital punishment - it is illegal under EU law. But this is a debate, one suspects, that will run and run.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.